There aren't many places where college students are seen knitting, but visitors can at Side Track Coffee.
Squished into historic Downtown Opelika, Side Track Coffee stands out as one of the quainter coffee houses in the Auburn-Opelika area.
The coffee bar is in the center of the room, a sky light opens above it and an idealized, industrial atmosphere wraps the whole place together.
The most noticeable difference between Side Track Coffee and many other coffee houses is its pay-what-you-want system. Customers enter their own price at the register based on what they think their drink is worth instead of having it prescribed by a menu board.
David Bizilia doesn't claim to know why this system works, he just knows that it does.
"At the end of the day, I'm able to put bacon on the table," he said.
He suggested it might be the hard work of himself and his staff that keeps customers paying, and some of those customers agree.
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Bizilia's other suggestion is that people are just nice enough to pay. He said that while he encourages his employees to treat customers as though they paid $1,000, it all comes down to customers deciding what they have earned.
While this atmosphere and friendly service may be enough of a draw for many customers, Bizilia, the owner of Side Track Coffee and a self-described "tiny details person," said there are still changes he would like to see.
Some of these updates are unseen like bar-flow and coffee brands, while others are more noticeable like new furniture and dish-ware.
"When I have time, I'm at my brother-in-law's workshop making furniture, or I'm at the pottery studio making cups," Bizilia said.
Some of the tables and chairs in Side Track Coffee are handmade, but according to Bizilia, the goal is to have everything in the shop handmade by him or his team.
Looking forward, Side Track Coffee is hosting an event for the International Justice Mission branch at Auburn on Nov. 6.
"IJM works to end human trafficking and does other great work so we want to help spread their message," Bizilia said.
He also said the coffee shop will be transformed for this event.
"When we have events, we try to brand the space," Bizilia said. "Instead of walking into Side Track with an event going on, you walk into a space designed for that event."
On a day-to-day basis, Side Track Coffee is designed to comfort and caffeinate all those who enter.
Customers love the coffee. The people are friendly. The furniture is homemade. And yes, occasionally someone is knitting.
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